For the past years, schools in Malawi have been shut down due to demonstrations by students or sit-ins by staff members.
Public Universities in the country have a pile of newspapers to archive with such incidents of sending students back to their respective homes as compared to those students pursuing their different courses from private Universities.
Secondary schools have very few cases of closing down, except for those students who express their dismay with poor diet by opting for breaking of school property which leads to the suspension of their learning for a while.
With reports of the deadly respiratory disease caused by Coronavirus (COVID-19), which has hit over 200 countries across the globe, Malawi grabbed quickly the prevention boot as the virus fast spread across Africa including to countries that Malawi shares borders with it.
It is now two weeks since the first citizen of Malawi announced that students must be in their homes as a preventive measure from contracting the virus as scientists suggest that staying at a distance from one another prevents the virus from spreading to the masses.
The closure has affected schools’ calendars for respective institutions of education and poses a threat to the planning of all activities associated with learning.
For Instance, the Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) and Primary School Leaving Certificate of Education (PSLCE) national examinations that have fixed months that candidates are supposed to sit for them need to be rescheduled.
As we accept this sad reality of closure of schools while fighting the spreading of COVID-19, alternatives on how students can still be in class while they are at home amid this crisis, e-learning could be the answer to worries that Coronavirus has brought on education in Malawi and other countries.
The Catholic University of Malawi Registrar, Francis NKhoma is of the view that, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Malawi needed to have an e-learning mode of teaching students for global education ranking.
He added that separation of the teachers and students during the teaching and learning processes and the use of rich forms of multimedia to unite them in the learning process, eliminate the fears of spreading the virus at the same tick of the clock ensuring that students are continuing with their studies.
“The calendar is not interrupted and it provides access to learning materials to students who have been disturbed with unprepared closure. So, that process of studying continues by every student who was supposed to be in school,” said Nkhoma.
Concurring with Nkhoma, education activist, Benedicto Kondowe, suggests that e-learning could have been a milestone achieved on Malawi’s education system years back as most countries have moved a step further to integrate such mode of teaching students.
However, Kondowe was quick to question the practicality of e-learning in Malawi due to inadequate infrastructural development, system design and access to the internet that remains a problem to many citizens.
“The assumption will be that every space is accessible to the internet which is not the case and it will pose a huge challenge to those that are staying in typical rural areas which are not accessible to the internet. Again it will be problematic to those people that have access to the internet because of the status of our economy that challenges us,” said Kondowe.
He then urged the government to invest in the initiative of e-learning as a way of supporting Higher Education Institutions to roll out the mode and engaging with the private sector offering services that support e-learning.
Minister of Education, Science, and Technology, Dr. William Susuwele Banda disclosed that e-learning remains one of the viable options to be explored, amid COVID-19 pandemic. The Minister then disclosed plans of solving challenges that are likely to rock the mode.
“Soon, I will be meeting service providers in this country, including development partners who have offered themselves to step in and support the process, and other key stakeholders because these issues are to do with policies, some service providers say the internet is expensive because of tax that is charged on it,” said Susuwele Banda.